The Kozel Family

The Kozel Family

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Can't Believe It! Yay!

This happened today.  It was the first time he was able to do this all by himself!

Woo-hoo!  You know you're a parent when this is the top excitement of the week.  :)

Happy Birthday, Wyatt!

Wyatt:  February started off in the best way possible--your 6th birthday!

I was a little nervous from previous antics (see January Part 2 for details) that you might not be pulled together enough to have a celebration.  You were wonderful at school and made such a drastic improvement that it was PARTY TIME!  We usually have a kid's party and then a family party to celebrate your special day.  This year, we decided to go low-key and invite two boys to go to McDonald's and then see a movie.

I looked into kid movies for the Saturday of your birthday and there was only one--Beauty and the Beast.  Even though everyone had seen it (or in your case, parts of it) before, it was playing in 3D so we thought it would be great to go anyway.  We invited Grady, a friend from Kindergarten, and Quentin, your best bud from preschool. On the morning of the big day, Kurt (Patty's grandson) paid us a surprise visit.  He was visiting from Delaware and wanted to play for a while.  It didn't take us long to decide to include him as well in the festivities.  Papaw came along, too! 

McDonald's was PACKED!  It took us over 40 minutes to get our food.  You and your buddies did a fairly good job keeping calm and your overall goofiness entertained the family sitting behind us.  Once the food got there we wolfed it down and then headed over to the movie theater.  The movie was great, of course.  You sat in between Grady and Quentin.  My favorite part of the movie was when Gaston fell off the castle roof.  Quentin stood up and earnestly shouted, "YES!  The beast got him!  I LOVE THIS MOVIE!"  What a great thing, to be so swept into a movie that you just have to participate!

We drove through McDonald's after the movie to get ice cream treats (we didn't have time to get them beforehand) and then it was time to head home.  I was exhausted, and you were thrilled. It turned out that Papaw hadn't ever seen the movie before, so he had a great time, too!  I think some of the reason I was so tired was that a little boy had been tapping on my shoulder at 3:00 that morning, wondering if it was time to get up! You just couldn't wait for your birthday party with your friends.  :) 

I brought the camera in my purse and didn't take a single picture. Boo.  At least we have some pictures of Sunday's family party.

You and Nona battling with your BeyBlades from Grady

For the past several months, every time we discussed your birthday you would tell me you wanted a surprise party.  You told me your plan of how it would all work.  I tried to explain that you can't really plan your own surprise party, but I guess you can.  We hadn't discussed this in the few weeks that led up to your birthday, so I decided to make your "surprise" party a reality.  You and I got up and went to church.  While we were gone, Grandma, Papaw, Nona, Papa, and Daddy decorated the whole house with streamers, signs, and balloons.  When we came in the house, everyone was hiding in the family room.  They all shouted, "Surprise!" as you walked down the hallway.  You were speechless!  It was great.

Dressed up and ready to party!

Addie and Emmie were FaceTiming on the iPad so they could join in the surprise.

Papa made you this sign

Our Party Guests:
Nona, Papa, Grandma, Papaw, Tony, Melissa, Patty, Bella, Leo, Priya, and Matt (plus us of course)

That made for a crowded family room!  We had a wonderful time.  Daddy used his new smoker to make chicken and roast beef that everyone seemed to love. 

Part of the party crowd.  Notice Lily in Nona's arms!

There were streamers everywhere!

Your sister loved all of the decorations. She thought they were delicious.

One of your favorite presents:  a double barrel Nerf shotgun from Tony and Melissa.

When it came time to sing, someone said, "Don't forget to make a wish!"  You got really quiet.  About 1/3 of the way through the song you blew out your candles.  I guess you had chosen your wish and you didn't need to bother with waiting for the song to end.  It was pretty funny. 

The cake.   Spongebob's shoes were made of marshmallows covered with icing.  You ate one of them and your whole mouth was tinted a fierce black color.
The candles were all lit with different colored flames.  They were pretty cool.

Notice our mouths--we are still singing.  :)

You and Bella had a blast bouncing balloons all over the place.

Leo thought this balloon was hilarious.  Lily was not that into it.

My sweet boy is 6 years old.  In the past year you learned to read, began playing T-ball, got a new baby sister, started Kindergarten, and gained some valuable life lessons.   I can't wait to see what this year will bring for you!  I love you, buddy.  You are my joy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

January--Part 3: Lily's Transformation

 Lily, you turned into a different person this month!

1.  On January 9th you figured out how to crawl.  You had been thinking about it for a while, but you just seemed to rock back and forth on your knees for about a week.  On this day I decided to tempt you with a cereal puff.  I put it just out of your reach.  You wiggled and stretched and flopped over so you could grasp it with the very tips of your fingers. Cheater.  I moved it further away and tried again.  Sure enough, you embarked on your first shaky crawl.  Within about five minutes, you were motoring around the TV room in search of puffs.  It was amazing to see how fast you were able to figure it all out!

2.  On January 18th-22nd, Nona and Papa came to visit and help us while Daddy recovered from eye surgery.   I was anxious to see how you would react to them, as you'd been better around Daddy but not many other people. You were great.  Nona got to hold you and finally get the cuddling for which she had waited so patiently (for almost 8 months!).  You were happy as a clam with both her and Papa!  Papa was over the moon that you would finally spend time with someone other than me.  He told me that you had made Nona's day.  :)

This seems to have sparked a new chapter in your life, which I have entitled, "People Really Aren't as Bad as I Thought They Were."  I finally figured out that if we treat you like a wild squirrel, you will respond positively to new interactions.   My grandmother (Papaw's mother) used to sit on her back stoop and feed the squirrels.  They would eat right out of her hand.  Now, they didn't start off doing this.  Mamaw had to slowly ease into their world, inching closer and closer day by day.  The "wild squirrel shuffle" is how we convince you that it's really ok to sit next to someone other than me or Daddy.  I sit right beside you as New Person enters the room.  If you look anxious, I put you on my lap.  We sit for a few minutes and visit, and I shift to sitting behind you, so you are in between me and New Person.  Then I slowly scoot back, little by little, until you are much closer to New Person than to me.  At that point, I can actually leave the room and you are fine.  It's really something to witness.  Thanks to Mamaw for the inspiration.*

3.  Almost immediately after the crawling began, you started standing on your own.  You would pull yourself up using some sort of furniture or person to help, and then you would simply let go.  You started off being able to stand for only a brief second or two, but by the end of the month, you were standing for quite a while.  The length of time you can stand is directly correlated to your excitement level.  If you are very, very pleased with yourself, you start panting and bobbing and you are destined for the floor.  The calmer the better for duration challenges!

4.  January was also the "Month of a Thousand Sounds."  You started sticking out your tongue, making pbbbbbb noises with your lips, and (much to Wyatt's delight) you discovered how to make tooting sounds with your mouth on certain toys.  It's been a wonderland of slobber and hilarity.  We love it!  You make us laugh every day.

On the last day of the month, we finally got to have another playdate with the Poehners.  You were much more interested in Leo than you've ever been before.

You couldn't pull Leo's hair because it's so short.  That didn't stop you from trying, though! 

The start of a beautiful friendship.

Don't forget that this was also the month of the sleep-training saga.  Now you know why it's the middle of February and I've just finished writing January's news.  What a month!

*Mamaw also planted bamboo in her backyard.  If I'm ever inspired to do this, it is your job to hog-tie me down and refuse to let me go until I've come to my senses.  Get your brother to help. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

January--Part 2: Honesty is the Best Policy

Part 2 of our journey through January brings us to Wyatt.

Wyatt:  Oh, buddy.  You learned a LOT this month.  You learned that you need to listen and obey.  You need to try your best.  You need to be nice.  And the kicker:  you always need to tell the truth--the whole truth.

This was a tough month for you.  There were many, many privileges taken away.  You earned some back, and then lost them again.  Finally, near the end of the month, you seemed to realize that Daddy and I meant business.  I received good news from school and you finally earned all of your privileges back again. 

I felt like I lost my privileges for the month, too!  No board games, no store treats, no Ramona the Pest.  I knew, however, that it was the right thing to do.  My job as your mom (and Daddy's as a dad) is to help you grow into a wonderful man.  I had to keep telling myself that, especially when all I wanted to do was to be "fun Mama" again. 

February has started off much better.  I am getting great reports from school and I'm so proud of how you're doing.  You seem much happier about school, too.  We've been able to play lots of board games and you are pumped that you get your 15 minutes of iPad each day!  I think you'd just lost your way for a little bit.  I'm sure this won't be the last time.  And that's ok--we will always be here to help you find your way back.  :)

January--Part 1: The Sleep Saga

Whew!  January was something else.  Parts were great, parts were not so wonderful.  It was definitely the longest month I've had in a while.

Lily:  One of my New Year's resolutions was to help you become a better sleeper.  You were a lovely sleeper when you were a newborn.  My friends were so jealous of how you slept so well at night for being so young.  Everyone marveled at your advanced nighttime get the picture.  So, imagine my surprise to finally figure out that somehow, somewhere in the past few months you decided to sneakily throw all of that right out the window.  By the time I realized things had changed, you would only fall asleep on MY bed, while you were nursing.  I might be able to pick you up and put you in your crib for a bit, but as soon as you woke up, it was back into the big bed again.  This meant that we were both up at least four or five times a night, which made for a crabby baby and mama.  You also had a tendency to hog the bed.  Sometimes you would scoot so much that Daddy would have just a teeny strip of mattress to call his own.   This made for a crabby Daddy, too.

After our holiday travels, during which none of us got much sleep, I decided to make sleep-training our number one priority.  Using a book that helped your brother when he was little, I chose January 1 as our first night.  Might as well start the year off right!  The basic plan for the sleep-training system was this:  Start by sitting right next to your crib.  Pat you and soothe you with shushing noises intermittently, but only pick you up if you are hysterical.  Only leave the room once you are completely asleep. Every time you wake up, repeat that routine.   Every third day, move the chair further away from your crib until I'm finally outside your room.  After three weeks, you are fixed and able to put yourself to sleep.  Rainbows and unicorns abound.  Happy home once again.

Seems like the perfect plan, doesn't it?  A gentler version of the "cry it out" routine, with my presence to support you in your quest to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.  You were against it from the start.  Sparing you the MANY grim details, let me just say that your persistence and overall endurance will serve you well in the future.  The first few weeks we saw improvements, which were encouraging.  You threw us a few loops, though.  One afternoon I was sitting outside of your room, just within your view, trying to get you to go down for a nap.  You cried for a while and then I heard this loud, terrible scraping sound.  Imagine your delight when you figured out that gnawing on the crib with your lower teeth would get Mama to visit you!  You actually ate the finish and part of the wood right off the side of the crib.  I had Daddy lower the crib to the very bottom that night!  Things went well after that for a while longer.  Then, somehow, you managed to trick us into patting you asleep!  This was not good.  It had been over three weeks, and you were NOT putting yourself to sleep.  No unicorns.  No rainbows. 

I decided to start over with our original schedule.  This time it went better, and Daddy and I did not give in to you (even though you are so darn cute).  It's been over a month, and you are able to put yourself to sleep more and more.  It's still a process, but I see that you are a much happier baby now that you are getting two good naps everyday, along with a great night's sleep!  I'm able to sleep now, too, which is definitely a plus!   Lilygirl, you are a trip. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christmas 2011

Christmas was great!   Grandma, Papaw, and Uncle Jim were here to enjoy the morning festivities.  I felt much better, and we all had a blast watching you two open your presents.  
Wyatt wanted a two-wheeled scooter, a new Buzz, and Zombie Lab.

Lily liked the paper much more than the gifts.

Stocking stuffer surprise!

Lily's loot (notice she is still playing with the paper)

Great minds think alike!

After presents and some breakfast, we piled into the minivan and headed to Uniontown to celebrate with Nona and Papa.  Lily, you sweet girl, you slept the entire way!   Aunt Anita, Uncle Chris, and Amelia didn't get into town until the next day, so we waited until then to open presents and have our big family Christmas dinner.  Addie and Emery were there,which made everything extra fun.
Lily. Lily, Lily.  You finally liked Daddy enough to go to him fairly consistently, but everyone else was still chopped liver.  You wouldn't go to ANYONE!  And then, right after our Christmas feast, Mikey picked you up and started playing with you.  And you liked it.  Whoa!  Everyone was very impressed and quite envious that you chose him over anyone else!

Amelia is getting so big!

Present time!

This was from PaPa.  You were pumped!

Amelia liked this toy of yours so much that she got one of her own the next day!  :)
Lily:  I can't believe we got the next shots.  Emery and Addie were so happy that they got to hold you.  Granted, you cried about 30 seconds after each of these pictures were taken, but you were happy for a minute or two!  We have evidence:

After some fun in Uniontown, we traveled down to Parkersburg.
We visited with Rachel, Oliver, and the rest of Rachel's family.
We had our annual family get-together, too.  Relatives that showed up this year included:
Aunt Jamie, Uncle David, Shae, Cameron, Hannah, Aunt Terri, Uncle John, Ben, Laura, Ted, Sophie, Andy, Courtney, Rae Ellen and Bill Stuart, Aunty Chrissy, Big Jim, Lisa V., and of course us, Grandma, Papaw, and Uncle Jim.

Wyatt, you and Ted hadn't seen each other in two years.  You played as if you were always the best of friends.  Sophie joined in on the fun, and Lily cried at everyone.  We all had a fantastic time!  We are going to do our best to make sure that you two get to spend more time with Ted and Sophie from now on.
Cousins on the couch...a tradition that has now been passed down you!

Courtney--one of several people who "broke the baby" during our visiting.  I promise you'll like her when you're a little older, Lily.  She really is quite nice once you get to know her.

We went back up to Uniontown for another day of visiting and then it was time to head home.
Love this one.

What's on the menu back at home?  Zombie brains, of course!

What a whirlwind!  Although the traveling can be exhausting, there's nothing like getting the chance to see (almost) all of your family in one week.  Christmas for us isn't quiet.  It isn't peaceful.  It is wild and fun and loud and hectic and wonderful. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Christmas Eve

We had such a lovely Christmas Eve!

On Christmas Eve, we always have our version of a "seven fishes" feast.  I think this is an Italian tradition, as Daddy's family has been doing this for a long time.  You are supposed to have certain types of fish, like rehydrated salted cod (yikes!) but we just make sure we have at least seven yummy seafood dishes.  This year we prepared shrimp cocktail, fried calamari, clam chowder, fried shrimp, crab dip, grilled scallops, baked and fried cod,  fried mahi mahi, and grilled salmon.  Daddy is the fish master, and was in charge of most of the cooking.  He grills a mean scallop, and makes salmon much better than any restaurant.  Someday you two will be old enough to appreciate that!

We were so happy that Papaw, Grandma, Uncle Jim, and the Poehner family were able to join us.
The Feast!

Yet again, Lily joins us through the TV screen.

The kids' table:  Despite your expression, you really liked it and thought it was fancy!

Unfortunately, I had a small stomach bug so I ate 3 crackers and a roll. Everyone else really seemed to like the feast! Wyatt, you and Bella both loved the fried shrimp.  Calamari is a favorite of yours as well. 

After dinner we went to Christmas Eve service at our church.  We were packed in like sardines, but it was a nice service.  The candles were a big hit with you, Wyatt.  I think you were excited to be trusted with fire.  For me, there's nothing quite like having the sanctuary lit only with hundreds and hundreds of candles.  It's magical, and my favorite part of Christmas Eve.  (Sorry, Ken.  The fish feast does rank a close second!)

Cookie Decorating

    Sugar cookie decorating has been a Christmas tradition in my house for as long as I can remember.  Grandma  (my mom) would make the dough and we would cut out our favorite shapes with an assortment of well worn cookie cutters.  We always used the biscuit cutter with the doughnut hole attachment to make wreaths.  Grandma would bake the cookies for us and then we would decorate them with a variety of icing colors.  This is the BEST icing in the world--Aunt Terri's recipe.  I remember always feeling a little sick to my stomach as we got to the last tray of decorating, as I had probably ingested as much icing as I used on the cookies.  We got more and more creative as the years progressed.  One very clear memory for me is when Uncle Jim turned a snowman cookie upside down and decorated it like a Rastafarian.  I didn't exactly scream Christmas, but it was very interesting nonetheless!   

Uncle Jim and me--stripes must have been all the rage.

I don't remember the cookies ever looking this good, but apparently they did!

Rachel decorated cookies with us many, many times.   I don't know why we don't have a picture of her, but here is the rest of her family joining in.   (Luke, Uncle Jim, me, Rocky, Sheila, and Papaw's front)

As I've gotten older, the tradition has remained intact.  A few years ago, we started decorating the sugar cookies up here at our house, with Grandma still in the captain's seat.
Last year's decorating extravaganza

Bella and Wyatt concentrating

We always buy plenty of sprinkles

Taste Test:  Two Thumbs Up!

So proud!

This was the first year that I took on the responsibility of making the cookies and the icing myself.  Since I'm not as brave as Grandma, I decided that I would make the dough, roll it out, and bake the cookies beforehand.  After a brief phone consultation with Grandma, I made two batches of cookies.  This resulted in well over 100 cookies.  Wyatt, you decided to help me, and we spent over two hours rolling and baking.  It was such a special time for just the two of us.  I can't believe you spent the entire time working with me!  We invited a few friends over the next day, and it went pretty much as I expected.  The boys decorated about three cookies each and then raced around the basement while Bella and the moms finished the rest!  Everyone had a great time. :)  Note to self:  one batch will be quite enough for next year!
Jimmy, Bella, Quentin, and Wyatt

Bella's signature style

Leo enjoyed watching. 

A different kind of snowman

Can you tell the grown-ups started helping?

Lily decided to nap through most of the mayhem.

Lily, I'm looking forward to the time when you will be able to join us in this family tradition.  To be able to share an experience I loved so much as a child with my own children is such a gift.